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Monthly Archives: December 2010

now if only i could sleep

The Christmas pajamas are finished and all wrapped up ready to be opened tomorrow night. The house is clean. The presents are made and/or bought. The cards are sent. Uncle Dan’s award-winning peanut butter balls are on their way. The guest beds are made. The furniture is mostly de-cat-haired. All that really needs to be done is done. So why can’t I sleep?

I guess it is because of all the other little things that don’t need to be done, but could have been done. The Christmas concerts we didn’t go to. The krumkake we still haven’t made. The evenings of hot cocoa around the Christmas tree that didn’t happen because we were frantically trying to get other things done. The last minute gifts that I really could make! Sigh. I guess whether you are a kid in high anticipation of Christmas or an adult trying to make Christmas perfect for the little ones, it is just very hard to settle down to sleep.

Notes on the pajamas: I make pajamas for the three of us each Christmas. I intend to do this until Pia declares she will die of embarrassment if made to wear matching pjs ever again. So, like, for two more years. Last year I bought long sleeve t-shirts to match the pants I sewed, but this year I could only find short sleeve t-shirts (at the one store I looked at… I didn’t try all that hard). As short sleeves in winter are ridiculous I added on flannel to make long sleeves to match the pants. It is all very puffy and billowy and I hope insanely comfortable. Perhaps when I put them on tomorrow night I will be able to sleep.



can’t this wait until Easter?

Yesterday we set up our creche, an activity that always created riots amongst my siblings and I when we were kids. “I get baby Jesus!” “You got Him last year! It’s MY turn!” “It’s not fair, Colette always gets to set up baby Jesus! Why does Colette get to do everything?” For the record I don’t think I ever got to set up baby Jesus until all my siblings had moved out of the house. At that point it lost a bit of its luster and I pretended to prefer the donkey. Actually at that point I probably really did prefer the donkey. Anyway, all this is neither here nor there as currently Pia has no siblings and therefore gets to blissfully set up all the animals and baby Jesus. She has no idea how good she has it.

We have the most brilliant, wonderful nativity set which was a gift from a dear friend. The set was made in Thailand and includes a flock of chickens, two water buffalo, and an elephant on his knees. The most charming detail is that Mary is holding baby Jesus, something I have never seen in any other set. So very cool. While setting it up I told Pia the Christmas story, having her fetch Mary or Joseph or the chickens as they came up in the story. It was quite fun figuring out how to weave the water buffalos and elephant into the narrative.

Christmas is the easy story to tell. All the animals and the star and the no-room-in-the-inn. It’s all good. So why on earth did I find myself having this conversation today while building snowmen?

Pia: Did baby Jesus die?

Me: Um, yes. But he wasn’t a baby, he was a grown up. Everyone dies. (unhelpfully, I began singing Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” at this point. i’m a bear of a mother.)

Pia: How did he die?

Me: Um, well, he was killed.

Pia: Why?

Me: (where is this coming from???) well, he was a good man who taught other people about being good, but some people didn’t like what he was teaching.

Pia: Did he come back to life?

Me: Oddly, yes

You can see the course this conversation was taking. Where all this came from I have no idea. Why the story of Jesus’ birth led her to ask all sorts of questions about his death is baffling to me. But having this talk with a 5-year-old who asks ‘why’ about everything was very challenging. “Why did he come back to life?”, “Will I come back to life?”, “Why did some people not like him?”. Ack. Perhaps I will be better prepared by Easter. At that point I will just hand her the phone and tell her to call her godmother. Get ready Aunt B.

Imaginary brother, or, I don’t *want* 3 kids

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If I understand correctly, it is not uncommon for young children to have imaginary friends with whom they carry on conversations, of whom they invent wild stories, and for whom they insist their parents set the table at meal time.

Oh, if only that were the case in our house.

This week, Tea informed me he’d taken a “quick trip to China to bring home another baby brother.  His name is Seth.  Like the Seth you knit the hat for, Mama, but a different Seth.  This one’s a baby that can’t walk yet.”

Oh boy.

Seth has been “left” home while we go to play group because “Punkin can change his diapers.  She can hold them in her mouth (cue Tea’s hysterical laughter).”  Most unfortunately, such neglect doesn’t fly when we’re home.  Tea is obsessed with watching Seth…or making sure I am watching him, with changing Seth’s diaper (or asking me to), with holding Seth when he cries (or ordering me to – and man, this kid apparently cries more than my other 2 combined).

Why can’t the figment of Tea’s imagination be older and more independent?  I’d even take an imaginary bad influence, like a second-grader who starts Tea on a path of gum chewing, skipping out of naps, and making fart jokes.  The last thing I need is a third baby boy in the house to keep track of.  Tea is far too responsible and won’t leave the room without handing me an empty blanket in a laundry basket, saying “I have to go upstairs.  Will you watch Seth in case he cries?”  If I speak too loudly, it’s “Shhh.  Mama!  Seth’s SLEEPING!”

I wish I could say he’s as attentive and compassionate about his real-life brother, but Pea is apparently not as interesting as the invisible kid.  Help me.  Please.

Holding Seth

let me out!

Yesterday’s advent activity was to make gingerbread cookies, which is fun in theory, but 7/8ths of the way through the baking I realized I don’t really like gingerbread cookies. Next year we are making chocolate men. Tastiness aside, it did end up being loads of fun because the dough we made was a bit too soft for cookie cutters so instead we shaped a giant gingerbread man. Pre-baking he fit within the pan, but by the end of his time in the oven he was a bit scrunched. But still, apparently, happy. Even if his tootsie roll toes melted. He is such a trooper. Indeed, even after Pia picked him up last night and he snapped right in half he was still smiling.

After shaping our giant man we wanted more fun and Pia requested to make a, well, really I should let you guess. Below is her creation. In all fairness you should know that one leg was eaten before this picture was taken. And no, it is not a crab or a spider. A thousand points to the first person who gets it right. Or close. Or within the correct phylum.

Reindeer cookies

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Inspired by an old issue of National Geographic Kids,  we made reindeer cookies this week.   I sliced a tube of (cover your eyes, Mom) store-bought sugar cookie dough.  Tea pushed the circles of dough onto 2 mini pretzel twists each for antlers and added a red-hot to each in the general nose area before baking the cookies.

After they came out of the oven and cooled, he used Nutella as a glue to attach marshmallows and mini chocolate chips to the face for eyes.  He first tried to spread the Nutella with a butter knife, but that was tricky for him.  Dragging the item to be glued through a big glob of Nutella worked better.

The cookies turned out cute, and the salty pretzel really tastes good with the sweet cookie.  The antlers also make a good handle to eat them with (or to hold while dunking).  Tea claims he made boy reindeer and girl reindeer, and doles them out to people according to gender.

I can’t tell the boys from the girls, but I think they are all delicious, and the boys seem to agree.

What’s your favorite Christmas craft to do with littles?

The reading raft’s final voyage

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I haven’t needed to resort to the reading raft for a long time, but today I woke up with a bad headache and a feeling of dread.  I’ve had a lot of “stop” days recently, as Courtney put it, and so the thought of spending a long day stuck inside while not feeling well kicked my (already hurting) brain into gear.  I needed a Plan for all of us to survive the day.

I told Tea we were going to ride on the reading raft, and he asked if he could wear his life jacket.  I said no.  His face fell.  And then I thought, um, why not?  So I said yes and he was much happier.  That bouyed my spirits.  We could do this together.

The books kept Tea quiet and content for awhile (as his bottomless-pit brother ate breakfast for 6 hours).  Then, he decided he needed to fish from the raft.  Hmmm…We brainstormed and made a few fish from construction paper.  I pinned safety pins through their mouths and we tossed them overboard.  I tied a magnet to a drumstick with yarn and Tea was casting his line and waiting for nibbles in no time.

This looked enticing enough to finally lure Pea from his cereal.  He crawled up onto the raft to look at books.

Tea was very proud of his catch.

Without any prompting, he headed off to his kitchen to cook up his fish.  We ate delicious fish soup for lunch.

I would be patting myself on the back right now, except for one minor detail that I’ve omitted.  Despite channeling my inner Christmas Story with repeated warnings that the fishing pole was dangerous if waved about and “the magnet could hit someone in the eye, so be very careful”, the fishing pole was, in a moment of weakness, waved about.  And the magnet did hit an eye…brow.  Thank goodness, only a brow.  There was blood (the magnet is smooth – how did this happen?!), but the wound was small.  Everyone is fine.  And the fishing pole has been disassembled.  I sunk the raft.  I need a new go-to activity for sick days.

What do you do when you’re not feeling well enough to entertain the critters?

Christmas decorations in a small house

We live in a small house which offers an equally small amount of storage space. Upon moving in over 8 years ago we decided we’d much rather have living space than storage space, so most of the areas (like the basement) that could be storage have slowly been redone to be a sewing room, a playroom, and a bathroom. There is still an epic battle being played out in the southwest corner of the basement between workroom and storage area and it is unclear which will win out in the end. Anyway, our mantra has always been ‘if we own it, we should be using it, and often’. But where does this leave Christmas decorations, lovely, beautiful things that are used but a mere 1/12th of the year? The answer, my friends, is paper. Christmas cards in particular. Christmas cards are full of memories, are nice to look at, and, come January, pack away flat into a manilla envelope, taking up next to no space. How do I love old Christmas cards? Let me count the ways.

1. I use them as is. I have saved all the cards from my sister over the years and I string them along a ribbon during the holiday season. The images are cute, but the messages from my sister inside are hilarious, so putting them up each year makes me laugh. And, yes, this makes me look like I have a zillion friends because they are up the moment Thanksgiving is over and when people walk in my house they exclaim “you have that many cards already?”. Yes, a zillion, very punctual friends.

2. In the same vein, I have a display of Norwegian postcards also strung up on ribbon. My friend Meribeth started this tradition several years back when she gave me my very first postcard. Since then I have been collecting them. They are so pretty and sweet that I should frame them, but that would defeat the purpose of flat packing them away come January.

3. I take the best parts of the cards and add to our Christmas tree garland. Using a big circle punch, I cut out the part of a card I want to showcase and then put two circles back to back over a string and squish them together with glue. Each year I can add to the garland and when I put it up the next year I get to think about the people who sent those cards. I really like to cut out the parts of the cards that have handwriting, because I think handwriting is beautiful, and even more so if it is from someone you love.

4. I use them as tags in our Advent activities calendar. I cut out little tags from old cards, punch a hole in them, and string some ribbon on. On the backs I write activities for each day. Some activities go over like lead balloons, others are great fun. Lead balloon: Christmas card photo shoot!! Great fun: Candy Cane Hunt! Lead balloon: Make Christmas Cookies!! Great fun: Snowball fight with balled up socks. Yeah. I totally stole that last idea from Robin. She rocks.

5. I put the absolute best parts into a scrapbook. I used to save each and every card I got, but this began to take up a ton of room. So now I force myself to select the best part of each card, cut it into a 2-inch square, and make a collage with them. I got this idea from the brilliant Ali Edwards. It is just as fun and memory provoking as a box full of cards, but takes up a fraction of the space.